Posts Tagged ‘racism’
The Italianist is suddenly awaken from a year-long slumber by the recent statements of Arrigo Sacchi.
Sacchi was the coach of, among others, A.C. Milan football club in the 90s, when the Milanese team was practically undefeatable. He also led Italy through to the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the US, sadly lost to Brasil after a particularly uninspiring match (which ended like this).
(However, someone has questioned whether the 1994 performance was the result of Sacchi’s coaching skills, or of mere luck).
Sacchi is now under fire for some comments he made at the end of a tournament for young players in Viareggio, Italy. He denounced his malaise at seeing too many black players. He said: “I am not a racist. But there are too many foreigners!!” To prove that he was no racist, he added: “I have coached Rijkaard“.
This is Rijkaard. Look how black he is!!
Having clarified he is no racist, Sacchi then went on to explain that “it is a shame to see so many black players in our youth teams. We [the Italians] are a people with no dignity, nor pride for our own country”. A racist, moi?
The Italianist has made it into the national press – here’s my article on Berlusconi’s resignation, which appears on today’s SMH.
The New Year starts for The Italianist in the same way in which 2009 ended, that is, with issues of colour. Today’s news report violent clashes in southern Italy among immigrant workers and the local population, in Rosarno, an anonymous village in Calabria with a population of about 15,000. It is interesting to see the way in which the italian media are covering the story, showing black men throwing stones at police, people screaming, white people saying ‘look what the Africans are doing to our town’, a white woman having a miscarriage because of the violence, and the usual articulated comments by italian politicians.
All the media seem quite keen to show what’s happening, but not so much to explain why it’s happening. Unsurprisingly, what we are offered is the government’s umpteenth lecture about the evils of immigration: we’ve let them in, they don’t want to work and only bring problems. Let’s focus on colours: white is good, black is bad. And now, some hot girls dancing in a bikini. (This has been a brief tour into the mind of the average italian tv news director).
It doesn’t take a big effort, though, to understand a bit more about what the events in Calabria reveals. Yet, often even a small effort seems too big, and it’s easier to go back to the “white=good, black=bad, we’re white, we’re good, they’re black, they’re bad”.
It wouldn’t take much to find out that these black workers work 12 hours a day picking up oranges in the field, and are paid 20 euros per day. It wouldn’t take much to discover that they live in conditions which would be unbearable to anyone. This is how they sleep, where they wash, where they live sharing tiny barracks among 10-15 people:
It wouldn’t take too much to realise that these black workers live in conditions of slavery. Their bosses keep from their wages the costs of transport of goods, of the (scarce) food they offer, of accessing fresh drinkable water (see here, in italian). These immigrants receive no support for learning italian language, which leaves them unable to integrate with the local communities. Nonetheless, it is impressive to see that many of them are able to articulate their thoughts in a better italian than the locals.. The business they work for is run by local criminal organisations, which in Calabria is the ‘Ndrangheta, whose pockets get the profits of this enormous exploitation. The ‘Ndrangheta enjoys this overly cheap working force, keeping them in the dark, unregulated, with no hope for future integration, and with the constant threat of being sent back home, of losing even this miserable wage. Or simply being killed.
It wouldn’t even take a great effort to see that the riots in Rosarno did not start out of the blue: the night before, two immigrants had been knee-capped by some people from a car; other two had been hit with bars and are now in hospital in serious conditions. No one knows who did this, but rumours have it that the good whites, not the bad blacks, did it. During the riots, an immigrant has been run over (not by accident) by a car guided by a local. The locals can be rightly upset by havin their town, windows, cars smashed by this angry mob. But who is to be blamed for all this violence?
It wouldn’t take a big effort to realise that what’s happening in Calabria is the result of a more complicated reality than the simple “black=bad” equation. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, the Italian Government does not help making things clearer. Roberto Maroni, the Minister of Home Affairs, has ben prompt to condemn the violence taking place in Rosarno. Let’s remember his face, and his wonderful red glasses:
For Maroni, the problem is clear: we have shown too much tolerance towards the immigrants. Weve been overly generous in accepting these people, and now it’s time for a clampdown (again?) against illegal immigration. I wonder whether Maroni eats oranges, and asks himself where they come from. I wonder if his brain is crowded with images of arian people picking up oranges behind the corner of his house in Northern Italy, waving the italian flag.
But I have to admit that it takes some courage to say Italy has been too tolerant towards immigrants. See this.
Similar comments about the riots in Rosarno have been made by the famous Italian diplomats, the Minister of Defence, Ignazio La Russa (who looks quite happy with the clampdown)
and Maurizio Gasparri (who yet remains focused on thinking about women’s tits)
Once again, according to the italian media it turns out that the blacks are to be blamed. There’s no Ndrangheta, in Italy; there’s no slavery; there’s no racism. Last week, the Inter FC striker Mario Balotelli, who apart from being a great scorer, also happens to be black, expressed publicly his disgust for being constantly targeted by racist insults from the public when playing in Verona. The next day, the major of Verona (a member of the Northern League) hit back at Balotelli, labeling him “immature”.
Don’t abuse their tolerance, Mario.
The recent years in Italy have witnessed a stark increase in immigration. A first massive wave took place in the 90s, when 350000 Albanians attempted to get into Italy after the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern europe. The dramatic stories of those people have been described in Italian director Gianni Amelio’s award-winning movie Lamerica. Since then, Italy has become a main gate for immigrants from Africa and Saudi Arabia, and the rate of immigration has kept apace for almost two decades. The tiny island of Lampedusa, which receives an average of 15,000 would-be immigrants per year, has become the stage for a persistent humanitarian emergency.
As a result of this flow of immigrants, Italy’s face has changed over the last 10 years. The social fabric is becoming increasingly multicultural, and people of different races and religions are led to closer interactions. Needless to say, multicultural integration is not a painless process, as it has met the resistance of a vocal part of the Italian citizenry. Extreme Right-Wing factions have exploited the immigration debate to reemerge on the political scene. Their helpful contributions to the debate include Northern League’s proposals to ban the burqa, close mosques, introduce racial segregation on buses, and a series of action-guiding posters that keep popping up on the walls of italian cities.
“Illegal Immigrants: torture them!” It is Legitimate Defence”. Vote for Northern League.
“They have Suffered Immigration: Now They Live in a Reserve. Think About It.”
It is not surprising that some Italians lack a certain degree of sensitivity in the face of what is not white-catholic-straight. The Italian Prime Minister last year offered a glorious example of this tendency when he commented on the first black President of the US (actually, he gave another one recently). The immigrant is often seen as a threat, a disease that is spreading around the ‘civilised world’ of which Italy seems therefore to be part. “It’s the immigrants!” – Italians frequently say when someone gets killed/raped/attacked. “But I am an immigrant too! I don’t kill/rape/attack people” – I point out to my co-nationals, when I highlight the fact that I live abroad. “Yes, but you are different! – it’s the reply.
Thus, the report issued yesterday by Caritas Migrantes seems to be a very welcome sign against the (sadly) popular equation “immigrant=criminal” (an english version of the report can be found here). It shows how, even in a year of economic recession and political hostility against immigration, the number of foreigners who have moved to Italy has constantly increased. It analyses the reality of immigration in Italy compared to other countries, and what impact immigrants have on Italy’s productivity and, most of all, level of crime. A few points in the report strike me as quite interesting.
The number of Italy’s immigrants exceeds 4.5 m: very close to Spain (over 5m) and not too far from Germany (about 7m). 2008 has been the first year in which Italy’s percentage of foreigners in the total population (7.2%), ranked above the European average and, although still far from Germany and Spain (respectively 8,2% and 11,7%), has surpassed UK (6,3%).
In 2008, 36.951 people have landed on italian coasts, 17.880 have been repatriated, 10.539 have gone through centers of identification, and 6.358 have been blocked at the frontier. The Report highlights that this is not even 1/50 of the overall presence of legal immigrants in Italy: however, this has monopolised the attention of public opinion and political decision-making. Thirty-four immigrants are rejected for every 100 who are retained (the lowest rate since 2004).
In addition to this, it emerges that “there is no crime emergency in Italy due to foreign immigrants”, since crime rates are not different from those of other countries in Europe. Nationwide, the number of crimes reported have actually decreased for the last few years. The real rate of reported crimes (slightly more than 2.5m) equals that of the early 90s, that is, when mass immigration was just starting. we should not draw the conclusion “more immigrants=more crimes”. In fact, it emerges that in the period 2001-2005, the increase of the immigrant population (101%) did not parallel the rate of reports of crimes by legal immigrants (41%).
Surely, immigrants, like Italians, can commit crimes and do lots of nasty things. However, one may hope that this Report will help us reflect on the prejudice lingering behind the idea that an immigrant is, as such, a criminal.